ARC Reference 6 or Cary SLP 05 with upgrade?

Yeah, it's me again. The Voyager has settled in nicely and I think I would benefit from a better preamp. A friendly local dealer dropped by today with a ARC LS28. That was headed in the right direction but was not close to a $12,000 improvement. I could probably swing a used ARC Reference 6, but somehow the Cary SLP 05 has caught my attention. Everything I read about it is very positive but I don't know if it would lend more of a full sound than increased transparency. Has anyone been able to compare these two directly? 

Currently: Bricasti M3 > Rogue RP-7 > LSA Voyager > Fyne F1-8

One of the things that appeals to me about the Cary, aside from cost, is it uses 6sn7 tubes which are now being manufactured by Lin Lai and have a reputation for great sonics.

Anyway, I await your wisdom. 


Both very good amps.

But they have very differing sound characters that arise from implementation of very different design philosophies.

You need to listen to both in your system over a decently long period before you make up your mind.

I'm for the AR as I have a Ref 6 myself, but it's a personal decision.

@markmuse There are some here that have pointed out that the input level dials are not equivalent quality to main volume so ideally they are best left at full for seamless passthrough. This may be splitting hairs but isn’t that what we all do here..ha. I have not done a comparison between using the rockwells versus the input level controls, unlikely I will hear a difference but theoretically it is possible. I will attempt that. The rockwells are fairly inexpensive and considered high quality. They attenuate everything as the are between the Cary balanced out and the Pass amp.

I think I have to get the Ref 6. It has 12 db gain balanced output. The Cary has 24db of gain balanced out! And my Bricasti DAC is a 4V out balanced. So everything is rather hot considering this, the amp power and speaker sensitivity. I'm afraid the Cary would just be too much. 

I auditioned an ARC LS28 in my system a few days ago. It has a gain of 18.5db on the balanced out, and it was definitely limiting the the flexibility of the volume settings. The useful range was 6-9 on a scale of 0-100. The Cary would be a good bit worse in that regard.

Even the 12 db gain of the REF 6SE is very likely far more than is needed with a high output DAC.